Controversial FGM Legislation Referred to Committee for Review

National Assembly Chambers

By Fatou Dahaba

Following a 42-5 vote in favor of the bill by the Gambia National Assembly on March 18, the legislation has been sent to a parliamentary committee for further examination over no less than three months before being brought back for discussion.

This move seeks to guarantee that all aspects are carefully considered and the perspectives of the Gambian population are taken into account before reaching a definitive conclusion.

If the bill passes the final stages, The Gambia will become the first nation to reverse global protection cuts.

In 2019, The Gambia began cracking down on those who violated a four-year-old anti-cutting legislation when it fined three offenders.

Advocates for anti-cutting and pro-FGM gathered outside Parliament in Banjul on Monday morning to express their opinions on the issue.

The bill proposes to revoke the ban on female genital mutilation by removing legal protections for the girl child.

Almameh Gibba, a lawmaker who introduced the bill and is a National Assembly Member for Foni Kansala, said the bill seeks to uphold religious loyalty and safeguard cultural norms and values.

“The use of a ban on female circumcision is a direct violation of the citizen’s right to practice their culture and religion.”

“If people are arrested for practicing F.G.M., then that means they are being deprived of their right to practice religion,” Lamin Ceesay, a member of Kiang West, observed.

While others hold different perspectives on the bill, Hon. Gibbi Mballow, a member of Lower Falladou West, expressed concern, stating that it is not in the country’s best interest.

He emphasized the importance of defending the rights of girls and women, as the practice has been medically proven to be harmful. “Let’s protect our women.
He added that I am a father and can’t support such a bill,” he added. “Religion says we should not harm women.”

Alagie S. Darboe, a member of Brikama North, said the bill draws a lot of attention and, therefore, needs national dialogue and consultation.

The motion was moved and seconded to refer it to the relevant committee for further scrutiny.

Imam Abdoulie Fatty, an influential imam, took up the cause and has been leading calls to repeal the ban, arguing that cutting, which in Gambia usually involves removing the tip of the clitoris, is a religious obligation and culturally significant.

New global estimates show a 15 percent increase in the total number of female genital mutilation survivors as compared to 2016.

UNICEF is calling on leaders and communities to urgently invest, promote, and prioritize girls’ rights to end gender discrimination and inequality.

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